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Ballot box binge: Votes loom in coming days from Mongolia to Iran to Britain in a busy election year

Even in a busy year of elections around the world, the next few days stand out.

Over the next week, voters go to the polls in fledgling democracies like Mauritania and Mongolia, the Islamic Republic of Iran and in stalwart democracies — former imperial powers — Britain and France.

In the U.S., President Joe Biden and his predecessor Donald Trump were participating Thursday in the first of two TV debates before their expected November standoff.

The voters in the upcoming elections face hard choices that could reorient the world at a time of war in Europe, the Middle East and Africa; mutual suspicion among some big powers; and growing public anxiety over things like jobs, climate change, taxes, inflation and the rise of AI.

National elections are taking place in more than 50 countries this year. India, Mexico and South Africa ushered in political change or ballot-box surprises. Russia did not.

Here’s a look at the flurry of balloting over the next few days in countries that collectively hold some 225 million people in Europe, Africa and Asia:


In Iran on Friday, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is looking for a successor for his hard-line protégé, President Ebrahim Raisi, who died last month in a helicopter crash.

Two hard-liners — former nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili and parliamentary speaker Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf — are among candidates that include Masoud Pezeshkian, a cardiac surgeon seen as a reformist who has lined up with supporters of relatively moderate former President Hassan Rouhani.

Amid signs of widespread voter apathy, Khamenei has called for maximum turnout and has issued a veiled warning to Pezeshkian and his allies about relying on the U.S.

Iran has faced economic woes in part due to international sanctions after Trump in 2018 shredded Iran’s nuclear accord struck three earlier with world powers. Iran has since ramped up enrichment of uranium and now has enough to be able to produce several nuclear weapons.

The Islamic Republic has sought to position itself as a leader of Muslim-world resentment against the West and Israel, which Iran directly attacked for the first time this year. For years, Iran has backed an array of militant groups, including the Palestinian Hamas, Lebanon’s Hezbollah and Yemen’s Houthi rebels.


France wasn’t supposed to be holding national elections this year.

But a drubbing for his pro-business, moderate party in EU elections this month led President Emmanuel Macron to dissolve the National Assembly and call snap parliamentary elections, which will take place in two rounds on the next two Sundays.

The result could send the nuclear-armed nation into uncharted political territory at a turbulent time for Europe: A victory of the anti-immigration National Rally party could produce France’s first far-right government since the Nazi occupation in World War II.

National Rally placed first among French parties in the EU vote, and polls suggest it could reap the single largest bloc of seats in the Assembly. If it wins an outright majority, it could name 28-year-old party President Jordan Bardella as prime minister.

Macron, whose term ends in 2027, would retain his job but have to share power with a party with historical links to racism and antisemitism that is firmly opposed to many of his positions, including on military support for Ukraine.

The outcome of the French vote remains very uncertain because of the complex two-round system and alliances that parties could form between the two rounds.

The United Kingdom

Western Europe’s other nuclear-armed power, Britain, will hold parliamentary elections next Thursday.

Like their cross-Channel neighbors in France, Britons appear ready to oust the ruling party: Polls suggest the Conservatives are headed for a historic defeat in the House of Commons after 14 years in power.

On Wednesday, Conservative Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Labour Party leader Keir Starmer struggled to get their messages across protesters drowned out their answers at the start of a heated TV debate. They traded zingers and barbs on issues of ethics, tax and migration.

Britain, under the Tories, has been one of the strongest supporters of Ukraine in its national defense against Russia, and a possible Labour government isn’t expected to waver on such backing for Kyiv.

Starmer may be inclined to mend Britain’s relationship with the EU after Brexit more than four years ago, but he has been adamant that a Labour government would not seek to reverse the will of the people in the referendum.


Nearly 2 million people go to the polls Saturday in Mauritania, a vast desert nation in West Africa that positions itself as a strategic ally of the West but has been denounced for rights abuses.

President Mohamed Ould Ghazouani, a former army chief who rose to power in the country’s first democratic transition in 2019, faces seven rivals. Among them are Biram Dah Abeid, an anti-slavery activist and third-time candidate, and several opposition party leaders as well as a neurosurgeon.

One of the most stable countries in Africa’s arid Sahel region, Mauritania has seen some of its neighbors shaken by military coups and jihadist violence.

The European Union this year announced funding to help Mauritania crack down on people smugglers and deter migrants from embarking on dangerous Atlantic crossings from West Africa to Europe — the number of which has been rising sharply — and patrol its border with restive Mali.

In the 1980s, Mauritania became the world’s last country to outlaw slavery. But nearly 150,000 people — in a country of under 5 million — remain affected by modern slavery, according to the 2023 Global Slavery Index.


Also on Friday is the vote for parliament in Mongolia, a country of 3.4 million people that emerged from some six decades of communist rule to become a democracy in 1990, and is wedged between two much larger authoritarian states: Russia and China.

Voters will choose representatives to a body that has been expanded to 126 seats, 50 more than in the current legislature.

The ruling Mongolian People’s Party, which ran the country during the communist era but has transformed into a left-leaning centrist one, is favored to win.

But other parties could make gains, possibly even enough to force the People’s Party to form a coalition government with the Democratic Party or the HUN Party, an emerging player in Mongolian politics.

Discontent with the government has been fueled by accusations of corruption and large protests broke out two years ago.

The Mongolian government has sought to maintain ties with China and Russia while also building new ones with the U.S. and its democratic allies — a delicate task since the two sides are increasingly at odds.


Associated Press writers Ken Moritsugu in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia; Jon Gambrell in Dubai, United Arab Emirates; Monika Pronczuk in Dakar, Senegal; Angela Charlton in Paris and Danica Kirka in London contributed to this report.

Jamey Keaten, The Associated Press